Editor's note: Michael Lieberman is the founder and president of Multivariate Solutions, a New York-based research consulting firm. He can be reached at michael@mvsolution.com.

Thanks to the 24/7 availability of news, it’s easier than ever before to learn about topics that were once swept under the rug because there were no cell phones to record social movements and cultural flows.

A large majority (66%) of consumers who want brands to take a social stand say it's because they believe brands can create real change. More than two-thirds (67%) of consumers think brands are effective at raising awareness around important public issues when they speak out on social media (Sprout Social, 2020). As a result, brands are showing much more interest in social causes, righting the wrongs of the past and supporting brands with values that align with their own.

Nike was one of the first big brands to respond to unrest in the U.S. in 2020. However, that was not the first time Nike voiced its support for the Black Lives Matter movement, but unlike in 2018 – when Nike put out a carefully planned ad campaign featuring NFL player Colin Kaepernick – the company went full in.

Tommy Hilfiger’s “Moving Forward Together” is similarly based on social good, aiming to help both the fashion and creative industries recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2017 Lyft used a different approach than Uber when reacting to Trump’s travel ban and gained a competitive advantage with consumers. As part of its corporate strategy, Lyft seized the opportunity to condemn Trump’s travel ban, pledging to donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union over four years. It also released a statement saying that “[Lyft stands] firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community.”  

Brands do take on some risk when following a social approach. Kantar’s 2021...